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GREENSBORO—A tumultuous eight months for Jimmy Fletcher ended trimphantly July 18 when he coached the East to a 34-9 victory in the East-West All-Star football game.
“It is probably one of the sweetest wins I’ve ever had,” Fletcher said, mindful of how he was dismissed in late November as head football coach at West Brunswick High School but later won a grievance to get back his job.
East defensive back Taylor Buffkin, who played for Fletcher at West Brunswick, agreed with Fletcher’s sentiment.
“It was good that he was the head coach of this game and that he was my head coach throughout my high school career,” Buffkin said.
“He gets a lot of harm back home. So when he gets some talent, you can see what he can do. And I was glad for him. He got some talent, and he knew what to do with it.”
“It was a great experience,” Fletcher said about the game, played before 7,623 spectators at Grimsley Stadium.
East scored on its first possession and then held West without a touchdown until about 5 minutes were left—and that score was set up by a dead-ball penalty.
“Going into it, I was nervous,” Fletcher said. “You just don’t ever know whether you could stop their passing game. But, I tell you, the game went absolutely perfectly.
“When we scored the first time, one of the coaches looked at me and said, ‘We couldn’t have started any better than that.’”’
After West scored a field goal to cut the lead to 7-3, East dominated the rest of the game.
“Going into it, we thought we’d mix coverage a whole lot,” Fletcher said. “Then, as we saw the way the game was going, and especially after we got the lead, we ended up dropping eight. We just tried to keep everything in front of us.
“When you have speed on defense, it really makes a difference, because they really got to the ball. When you get a lead, obviously, you have some advantages on defense.”
Among the speedy defenders were South Brunswick’s Gary Williams and West Brunswick’s Taylor Buffkin. Buffkin intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter.
“I am just so excited for him,” Fletcher said. “He had a chance early in the first half and he kept saying, ‘Gosh, Coach, I missed it. I missed it.’
“I’m just glad he had the opportunity to come back and make the pick. It was great for him.”
Fletcher praised his coaching staff: Paul Moore (Hertford County), Brian Paschal (D.H. Conley), Joey Price (Wallace-Rose Hill), Eddie Twyne (Manteo) and Russell Williamson (Princeton).
“They worked so hard,” he said. “We probably met 10 or more times. We would drive to Greenville and Wallace-Rose Hill and they would drive to Shallotte. I couldn’t tell you how much money they spent and I spent. They worked hard to find the players—and they pushed the kids. They did such a great job.”
The high school football season begins shortly—West Brunswick’s first official game is Aug. 17 at home against Hoggard—and the victory energized Fletcher. He will be entering his 10th season at the Trojans’ head coach.
“It definitely makes you feel good going into the season,” Fletcher said. “Now I’m excited to get back and coach my own team.”
About the only thing that didn’t go perfectly on this warm summer night was Fletcher’s postgame speech. After a few sentences, the public-address speaker began announcing the MVP awards and drowned out Fletcher’s voice. When he finished, Fletcher again tried to speak, but further sporadic announcements interrupted his speech. (“Please drive home safely.”)
Finally, with his 32 players huddled around him, Fletcher just clapped his hands and, in a voice nearly hoarse, said to them, “Thank you.”